By FATIMA HUSSEIN
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to lead the Social Security Administration.
If confirmed, O’Malley would run one of the biggest social programs in the nation and grapple with the surrounding uncertainty over its funding. Roughly 70 million people — including retirees, disabled people and children — receive Social Security benefits.
“Governor O’Malley is a lifelong public servant who has spent his career making government more accessible and transparent, while keeping the American people at the heart of his work,” Biden said in a statement. “As Governor, he made government work more effectively across his administration and enhanced the way millions of people accessed critical services.”
O’Malley served as Maryland’s governor from 2007 to 2015 and was Baltimore mayor for two terms. He also ran as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 but has ruled out running in the future.
The annual Social Security and Medicare trustees report released in March says the program’s trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in about 10 years.
If the fund is depleted, the government will be able to pay only 80% of scheduled benefits, the report said.
There are few options available to keep the program healthy: raise taxes, raise eligibility age, cut costs or rely more on general revenues to cover the gap in funding, which could mean higher budget deficits or potential cuts to other programs.
All of the options are politically controversial.
Currently, full Social Security benefits are available at 67, an age minimum that’s increased by two years since the program was first created roughly 90 years ago.
Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees workers union, applauded O’Malley’s nomination, and said he “is a strong advocate for working people and labor rights, and he has the skills and experience necessary to tackle the various challenges facing SSA like the recruitment and retention of its dedicated workforce.”
Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, said her organization “applauds the nomination of Governor O’Malley, a longtime Social Security champion.”
“Like President Biden, O’Malley supports expanding Social Security’s modest benefits, not cutting them.”
Last October, the agency announced that Social Security recipients would get an 8.7% boost in their benefits in 2023, a historic increase prompted by record-high inflation.
Social Security is financed by payroll taxes collected from workers and their employers. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll taxes for 2023 is $160,200, up from $147,000 in 2022.